Osinbajo Panel Interrogates Suspended SGF, Lawal


By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja  

On Tuesday, it was the turn of the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, to appear before the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo-led committee probing allegations of financial impropriety against him on the management of the humanitarian crisis in the North-east.
The committee is also investigating the discovery of N13.3 billion in an apartment in Ikoyi by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) has laid claim to the money.
Lawal was suspended on April 19 by President Muhammadu Buhari over the management of Presidential Initiative on North-east (PINE) contract awards in his capacity as SGF.
He was alleged to have awarded a N220 million tree-cutting contract to his company, Rholavision Engineering Limited, in contravention of public sector rules barring government officials from awarding contracts to companies in which they have an interest. 
He was also accused of awarding contracts to Josmo Technologies to the tune of N272 million. Josmo in turn was alleged to have paid the contract sum into Rholavision’s Ecobank account some days later.
Following his suspension along with the Director-General of NIA, Mr. Ayo Oke, the president constituted a three-man committee headed by the vice-president to investigate allegations of violations of the law and due process against Lawal in the award of the contracts. 
Other members of the committee are the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the National Security Adviser (NSA) , Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd.).
The committee was also mandated to investigate Oke on “how and by whose or which authority the funds were made available to NIA, and to establish whether or not there has been a breach of the law or security procedure in obtaining custody and use of the funds”.
Against this backdrop, Oke was grilled by the committee for over 12 hours on Monday. He had reported to the committee at 10 a.m. but did not leave till after midnight.
However, unlike Oke who was grilled by the committee for several hours, Lawal reported to the committee at about 1 p.m. Tuesday and left some minutes after 3 p.m.
When Lawal came out of the meeting accompanied by his security aides, he looked unruffled and relaxed. 
It was learnt that the issues involving Lawal were more straightforward to investigate than that of Oke which bordered on intelligence and espionage. 
Like, Monday, the Osinbajo committee continued to jealously guard its interactions with Oke and Lawal until the conclusion of its assignment. The panel, which has 14 days to conclude its assignment, is expected to turn in its report next Wednesday.
Having met with the principal actors who are being probed, the committee is expected to begin to call in other witnesses from Wednesday to testify before the panel.